For many fans of the modern piano, performances of early piano music on historically accurate instruments don’t make much of an emotional connection. According to Simon Chin’s review in the Washington Post, South African Kristian Bezuidenhout can change your opinion.
For Kristian Bezuidenhout, the art of historically informed performance is no dry, academic exercise but a bold act of musical imagination. In an illuminating recital at the Phillips Collection on Sunday afternoon, the South African fortepiano specialist brought interpretive daring, expressive freedom and technical resourcefulness to a restless and fascinating exploration of the music of Mozart and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.
The fortepiano offers musicmaking on an intimate scale. It has a lighter, mellower and more transparent sound than a modern Steinway, with more dramatic contrasts in color between registers. Playing a modern replica of an 1800 fortepiano by Johann Schantz, Bezuidenhout opened up a kaleidoscopic sound world, with seemingly endless variations of color, articulation and phrasing. His masterly command of the expressive possibilities of the instrument was allied with imaginative interpretive liberties and an operatic sense of timing and drama.